Batman: Knight vs Gotham City Chronicles

Batman is a very well known genre.  He has been about since the 1940s and DC have not been shy of promoting and marketing the Batman brand.  Alongside a possible 52 different simultaneous comic titles set within the Batman multiverse there have been films, TV, games and toys.  All this adds up to it being highly unlikely that any gamer has not heard of Batman.  Batman has evolved since the 1940s and the whole setting has been rebooted several times. Bruce Wayne is a constant but Batman is not always Bruce Wayne.  Batman has gone through several Robins and some named characters have taken on different roles.  Dick Grayson, for example, might be Robin, Batman or Nightwing.  For the villains the logic is easier to follow.  Most characters are either masked or mutated.  If a villain is defeated another can take over the role, the new recruit is probably insane and not even aware that they are not the original.  Even in cases where a key player is clearly dead DC have the ‘Lazarus Pit’ to sort it all out.

The Batman City Chronicles game by Monolith is currently not on retail sale.  It can be ordered through Kickstarter and copies are relatively common on eBay.  At the time of writing these copies are selling for less than new Kickstarter orders (accounting for postage and currency transfer fees).  The sales pitch is that everything comes in the 2 basic boxes but expansions are available that include more of everything. To keep comparisons simple this article will only consider the base Monolith game.

The figures in the boxes are sold unpainted.  With most characters being made up of a few simple colours it is not too much effort to get them all painted up.  These are the heroes. They include some characters that might be described as neutral rather than good such as Catwoman.

They are supported by various police types.  Due to the corrupt nature of Gotham some of these models could end up supporting the bad guys.

Speaking of which:

They too have supporting henchmen and thugs.  Note that while key characters are unique sculpts the goons are in sets of 4 identical poses.

Some characters have more than 1 model.   Each has differing powers in the game and represent different stages of the DC timeline.  Here are the 4 Batmen:

These miniatures are used to provide a variety of play scenarios.  There is no campaign or official design your own but no real impediment to heading down that route.  The equipment needed for play is relatively small.  The scenario below is one of the smallest in the game and has Batman trying to prevent Two-Face from polluting Gotham’s water supply. A standard Knight models game would need a board twice this size. Unfortunately although Monolith include 2 double sided boards these cannot be easily matched into a double board as is possible with their similar Conan game.

Batman Gotham City Chronicles was not the first kid on the Batman block.  It has aspects in common with Knight Miniatures Batman Miniature Game and the Heroclix brand which began with DC Heroclix.  All 3 models are of much the same size and build.  Here is a Knight, Gotham and Heroclix joker, all roughly ‘man’ sized.  The Heroclix pre-paint is not too bad.  Some skill would be needed to paint the eyes and eyebrow, the Robin model has the ‘R’ inside his badge.  The colour scheme of many of the Heroclix models is less good but in many cases a touch up rather than a full repaint is in order.  An exception is that many Batman characters fall in the 4 categories of male costume, no cape, male costume cape and female, cape or none.  A full repaint will convert most of the likely suspects within these 4 sets.

The larger models work less well in Heroclix as they are designed to fit within a single size pack regardless of the potential size of what they are modelling.  These 3 models are all Solomon Grundy.

Marketing ruins what would be a cheap Heroclix solution.  They are in sealed packs and address numerous themes.  They are often sold off in bulk on eBay but sourcing a particular mini is probably not worth the trouble. Heroclix really have pushed the DC franchise with models for many of the comic characters, not counting Marvel, 2000AD and Hellboy, although some models may now be out of print. Knight include models that are DC but not strictly Batman. Speedsters such as The Flash have an important though optional section of the rules. Monolith on the other hand are broadly restricted to Batman and his pals.

The Knight models were metal but are moving to resin.  The sculpts are a similar style in both.  Some of the metal minis need pinning and the resin models need careful cutting back with a sharp knife as they often have some remaining sprue stubs.  They are better sculpts than the Monolith models but not massively so and model for model Knight are considerably more expensive.

To decide on what models are needed where and the degree of crossover the game-play of the systems needs to be considered.  The Knight models game is based around all action happening at night.  Not unreasonable given the bat theme and the usual Batman story lines.   Game set up requires placing 6 lamp and 6 sewer cover models.  The sewer covers allow limited movement from 1 entrance to another.  The lamps provide a fixed area of illumination everything else is pitch dark.  Buildings are recommended but models will not usually enter them.  Batman can leap up and down from buildings and many villains will also be looking for grappling rope equipment to do the same.

The restricted light sources effect what can be seen and severely clamp down on shooting.  There is also a strict ammo limit so a lot of the action revolves around manoeuvre and close combat, Batman can see in the dark so is at a big advantage. Games are point based with a cost per figure as well as an equipment cost. Firearms really eat into that equipment budget so a gang will be unlikely to have many guns, all of which will be of limited use due to the darkness and restricted ammo allowances. Victory is a case of controlling or capturing objectives some of which give additional benefits such as ammo caches. Key players such as Batman and The Arrow are especially powerful but many games will be between more balanced forces, often with both sides being villains, a possible turf war scramble.

This Joker gang is the set from the old Suicide Squad starter box. It is 348 points and 1700 funding, 200 over the standard gang funding allowance but the Joker has 300 bonus funding to spend so there is still 100 to spend on the gang.

The base Monolith game is scenario based with the good guys attempting to succeed in some goal within a time limit. The bad guys tend to have some way to stop this in addition to knocking all the heroes out of the game. Monolith and Knight depend on allocating resources to figures before the figure acts. In both games wounds can reduce the pool of resources available. Fighting, shooting and movement are as might be expected. Monolith also include allocations for manipulation and thought. It is these categories that are often required to win a scenario. The Knight system has all resources allocated before a turn begins. One side will have an advantage being able to see their opponent’s allocations before they make their own. With Monolith resources are allocated as required and in any order. An action can be made and later on resources spent to re-roll the dice needed for an attempt. Up to certain limits the re-roll can be paid for several times, after each roll is seen. The problem is that any action has a fixed limit on the number of times it can be performed and only a small number of the full resource limit (usually 2 points ) can be regained at the end of each turn ready for the next. In Knight models resources may be lost due to wounds, otherwise the whole allocation limit is recovered at the end of each turn.

These are the stat cards for incarnations of Batman from both games. The Knight model has 8 points to allocate each turn but could get them all back. The Monolith model has 11 to spend but will only get 2 back unless he rests and can then recover 6. The various boxes indicate the limits that can be spent on each activity. Both games have a range of bonus skills which will need to be learnt or looked up during the game. Monolith use symbols, Knight key words but the principle is the same. In both systems additional gadgets will grant further skills.

In tournament play Knight insist that only their own models are used, even for the street lamps.  For friendly games the Monolith miniatures provide a competitively priced alternative except that the gamer has to load up on minis not just get the ones they might need.  In the Knight models game almost every miniature must be unique, each with its own stat card.  The cards have changed from the metal models to the more recent resin models and some individuals will have more than 1 model and hence stat card but all the cards should work with the rules.  The latest version of these rules and the stat cards for all the available models are free downloads from the Knight models site.  The stat cards are accessed from the sales page of the associated mini so do take a little tracking down.  When building a Knight models gang with Monolith figures there will be plenty of leaders but a limitation on basic goons as many of the Monolith goons have guns wheras guns are an expensive and risky option in the Knight game.

To summarise both games have a lot in common. Monolith players would be foolish not to at least look at the Knight rules and cards. Players of the Knight game could make use of the Monolith materials. The base box would be a hefty investment for a single player but a group or club might make substantial savings. The Heroclix models are good enough should they show up at the right price.